Giving credit where credit is due: Understanding content attribution
9 DEC 2015Lifeline Design 0
Some people still treat the internet like it's the Wild West - no rules, no law, and may the quickest draw live. If they see something they like such as a interesting article, a funny picture, or a cool design, they'll gladly save it and repost it on their own site without a thought to the person who made it. Obviously, this is a scumbag move that most people can recognize as being in bad taste.
In our hyper-clickable social media world where we retweet or share whatever tickles our fancy, or post interesting thoughts we come across to our personal pages, we all run the risk of falling into the same trap. There usually isn't any nefarious intention behind it (I'd like to think most of us are above total plagiarism), but even well-meaning attempts to share content can turn sour if they're not attributed to the original source or creator.
The internet isn't just where we play, but where many of us work, where we make our living. To those people, their online content is vital to their ongoing success and livelihood. Taking that it without redirecting users to the creator is at best rude, and at it's worst, theft. Thankfully, you can do your part as a fine upstanding citizen of the internet with a few simple attribution guidelines .
Use their name!
This is the most obvious and helpful step in attribution. If you use something on your site, give the original creator a shout-out. This can be accomplished with a simple caption underneath a picture or parenthetical after a quote that recognizes the creator. If that person is part of an organization or a business, you should mention that as well to make sure the content is properly contextualized.
Link it back!
Hey, while you're including the original creators name, why don't you go ahead and link that back to their site? Not only will you be doing the right thing by driving visitors back to the source of the content, it will help both your sites in terms of SEO and visibility. This is a pure and simple win-win situation for everyone.
If you're not sure you have permission to use something, don't
Most sites and content creators are fine with (if they don't downright encourage) people sharing their stuff so long as they are properly credited. However, you may run into situations where a site has gone out of their way to make it difficult to share something they've posted (watermarks, galleries that make it difficult to save pictures, and so on). Or you may come across a situation where you just can't find the original source for something no matter how hard you search.
In these cases, it's probably best to err on the side of caution. If you can't properly attribute or get permission to share something, it's easier to step away from it than it is to repost something that will get you in trouble.
Seriously, don't make money off of other folk's work
So far we've been talking about this as a matter of etiquette, but when money enters into the picture (which can be as diabolical as outright capitalizing on another person's content, or more accidental such as using a picture someone else made on your commercial website where you sell things or make money through advertising because it fit the topic you were talking about) it can quickly become a legal issue. That's a can of worms you don't want to open, and one that is so easy to avoid with some good common sense.
As always, the golden rule applies. If you made something, wouldn't you want proper credit for it? Wouldn't you be miffed if someone had the nerve to make money off of it?
Living well together
The idea here isn't to be a wet blanket when it comes to sharing things, but to share stuff better. With proper attribution and links, everyone is better off. The creator gets their credit and views driven back to their site, you get higher visibility, a clean conscious, and nobody can say you ripped something off. It's good feelings all around. So go forth, retweet, repost, and share all the things you think are cool, just do it responsibly.